South Africa & Lesotho
(1 767km - 34days - 27 March - 4 May 2007)
It was a remarkably uneventful day as I started my new life on the road. Ernest and I said goodbye to friends and family and started heading north. I had to return home to see to unfinished business and only joined Ernest in Kleinmond that evening.
28 March - Kleinmond - Hermanus - 38 km
A short and enjoyable ride to Hermanus where we met up with Ernest's sister, Olga and friend Donovan for lunch, after which we cycled to Dave and Kathy’s holiday flat where we stayed in luxury. (Thanks, Kathy and Dave).
29 March - Hermanus - Gansbaai - 53 km
We left Hermanus reasonably late and headed towards Gansbaai, straight into a ferocious headwind! We stopped in Stanford at the Birkenhead brewery for a beer, which was not a good idea as we still had to struggle on to Gansbaai into the wind. That night I was convinced that the wind was going to blow our tents away. There was no chance of cooking, even walking to the small restaurant was a challenge. That night, laying in my tent with the tent flaps roaring like a Boeing I had severe doubts about this decision.
Amazingly we survived the night, and the wind dropped slightly. Off we went in the direction of Pearly Beach, still into the wind but not as bad as the previous day. I also made the discovery that it was far harder into the wind with panniers than without. From “Die Dam” we cycled via a dirt road to Bredasdorp. The road was poorly maintained, sandy and heavily corrugated. We struggled up the hills, and I wondered whose idea this was (and this was only day 3). In hindsight, it was a bit stupid going on a cycle touring journey without as much as a days training. We reached Bredasdorp late that evening and with a very sore backside.
Wow, what a hilly day it turned out to be. Up and down, up and down and up again past farmlands and plenty of sheep. It was a scorching day, to such an extent that I run out of water and Ernest had to jump the fence to get water from the sheep trough. Thanks to the farmer whoever he was, as we would not have made it without that water. On reaching Swellendam, I was exhausted and my backside sore. I flopped down, on the ‘stoep’ of the local cafe, and it was only after I downed a coke that I could manage to carry on to the campsite.
1st April - Swellendam - Heidelberg - 60 km
I woke refreshed and was ready to tackle another hilly day. I had driven that road a million times before, but never realised just how hilly it was. I was not used to cycling on a loaded bicycle, and the weight from the panniers made the bike difficult to cycle into the wind, especially if it is still uphill.
2 April - Heidelberg - Still Bay - 72 km
We experienced the friendliness of rural South Africa first hand as we cycled out of Heidelberg. A lady offered us accommodation at her holiday house in Still Bay after hearing we were heading that way I wonder if I would ever have done a thing like that.
Soon we were back on the hilly road, and it was even more so than the previous day. We stopped in Riversdale for some refreshments and then continued on to Stil Bay. With names like "Skerpkoppies" and "Langhoogte", I don't need to say anymore.
At last, we reached Still Bay and my mom's house where we were welcomed with a huge bowl of macaroni cheese (my favourite).
4 April - Still Bay - Mossel Bay – 100 km
We left Still Bay with a tailwind and took the dirt road past Gourits River to Mossel Bay. It was a pleasant ride with the ocean in the distance and past pristine natural vegetation. We arrived in Mossel Bay in good time. Camped at “The Point” campsite and took a walk into town for a bite to eat. Once again, everyone in camp wanted to know where we were from and where we were going. Cycle touring is relatively unknown in South Africa and seeing two people on loaded bikes is not a very common sight.
5 April - Mossel Bay – Wilderness 73 km
This part of the country between Mossel Bay and Wilderness is known as the Garden Route, and for a good reason as it is utterly beautiful. We cycled along the coastal route enjoying the scenery. We stopped in George to say Hi to Julian and then carried on to Wilderness. We camped at “Ebb and Flow” one of my most favourite campsites in South Africa. Located on the Touws River in the Wilderness National park it is a lovely location. We found the local shop closed, but another camper offered us 6 beers and refused to take money for it. Later we cycled the 3 km back into the Village for a bite to eat, coming back in the dark after a glass or 2 of wine was quite challenging. We arrived back just in time before the rain started. This is a very forestry area, and one can expect rain at any given time. Our first rainy day of the trip.
6 April - A none cycling day
Amanda (my sister) arrived from Cape Town to come and visit, and we decided to stay put and just enjoy the day.
7 April - Wilderness – Knysna - 53 km
What should have been an easy ride was a battle into the wind again. Fortunately, Amanda transported our bags so we could cycle unencumbered into Knysna were we camped at “Woodbourne Campsite”. Later we set off to the waterfront to watch the Cricket and grab a bite to eat. But with the South Africans apparently heading for the disaster we went back to the campsite just to find our site invaded entirely by new arrivals. That’s camping for you!
8 April - Knysna – Keurboomstrand - 47 km
We left Knysna in excellent weather but encountered a good climb out of the valley. Amanda was still with us, and she once again took our panniers in the van, with the result that we had an excellent ride. The plan was to camp at Keurboomsriver, but at R470 per campsite we carried on to Keurboomstrand. I’m still amazed at people’s kindness, from offering to charge iPods to providing food and accommodation.
9 April - Keurboomstrand – Storms River Village - 58 km
Another short ride, but by far the most enjoyable cycling day to date. AIt was a good day in the saddle with bright sun and a slight tailwind. We met Nico along the way who came all the way from Knysna to meet us and brought coke and hot cross buns! Thanks, Nico! We chatted for a while and then cycled on to Storms River Village where we camped at the Backpackers, a really cool place with large gardens, green grass and a pleasant atmosphere.
10 April - Storms River - Jeffreys Bay - 114km
With a strong tailwind, we cruised to J-Bay past cows and more cows. What an excellent cycling day not much more a cyclist can ask for, long downhills and a good tailwind. We set up camp at Kabeljous and went to Mark and Riekie's house for pizza's. Riekie was kind enough to do our laundry which by then stank to high heaven.
11 April - Jeffreys Bay - Colchester 116 - km
We were trying to make the best of the tailwind and pushed on a bit. We took the back roads, via Uitenhage and only arrived at Colchester quite late, so instead of cycling a further 5 km along a sandy track we took a room in the village, and what a good choice, as no sooner had we settled in and the rain started coming down. It rained most of the night, but we were cosy and warm in our beds.
12 April - Colchester - Paterson - 36 km
We woke to a bright sunny morning in spite of the weather report predicting rain for the entire day. Shortly after we left, we turned off the N2 and onto the N10 heading inland. My legs felt tired, and as soon as we reached Paterson, we decided to stay there for the night. We found the campsite in George and Helen's backyard, (what a friendly couple) next to the Red House (a farm stall). Camping there was most interesting as we were surrounded by chickens, ducks and geese.
13 April - Paterson - Middelton - 70km
After a good breakfast at the Red House (recommended) of roosterkoek and coffee, we cycled up the Olifantskop Pass. Oh, and what a climb, but at the top the views were spectacular, we even saw some wildlife (Giraffe and monkeys) along the way. We reached Middleton at around 5pm and once again we were surprised at the accommodation. Middleton is an old railway station that has been renovated and is run by youngsters from the Noupoort drug rehabilitation centre. We had a lovely supper and then settled into our tent, the nights were starting to become quite cold.
14 April - Middleton - Farm outside Cradock - 83km
We left a bit earlier than usual as we decided to have breakfast along the way. The first place we go to was Cookhouse, which is even smaller than Paterson, but we manage to find something to eat and set off into the wind again. The going was really slow that day as we are cycling mostly into a headwind. As we headed up Daggaboersnek Pass, the going got even slower. On the other side of the pass, we found a farm stall and pulled in to replenish our water supply. We also met some local farmers from Cradock, who recommended a farm with a guest cottage about 25 km before Cradock. We found the farm just before the sun set and once again found accommodation in a beautiful place and with a very amiable host. No sooner have we arrived and Elza brought us fresh milk, bread, cheese and fruit.
15 April - Farm - Cradock Spa – 33 km
We left rather late as we had no intentions of going any further than Cradock, and as it was close, there was no rush. We got there into a stiff breeze, and after a quick lunch at Steers, we cycled on to the Cradock Spa which was located about 4km outside town.
16 April - Cradock Spa
We spend the day relaxing and floating in the lukewarm healing waters of the spa and later cycled the short distance into the village to do the necessary shopping at the Spar. We also found an internet café in the local hairdresser and although very slow, we managed to send a few e-mails.
17 April - Cradock Spa – Hofmeyer - 62 km
It was a beautiful clear and sunny day as we cycled off to the next little village. The countryside is extensive and quite impressive. The road was very quiet with only a few cars and trucks. Ernest got no less than 2 flat tires, but we still reached Hofmeyer quite early. Hofmeyer is real rural town consisting of 3 dirt roads and 1 paved road. It is a small Karoo town with tin-roofed homes, Pepper willows, a church, little shop, school and police station. We managed to find a small B & B “Die Pondokie”; needless to say, we were the only people there. Our hosts, Joey and Derick, were once again very sociable. We spent the evening in front of the T.V. and at least the South African cricket team won!
After a lovely breakfast, we were sent on our way by Derick with a copy of the local paper and a packet of fudge, which helped us up the hills between Hofmeyer and Steynsburg. The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms for the area and with dark clouds above we pulled into Steynsburg and thought it wise to head for Redefin Campsite, which turned out a total surprise. A lovely place with green lawns, braai places, a covered area and nice clean toilets and showers, all for just R50.00 for both Ernest and I. Nothing came of the thunderstorms, and it was a good time to repair tubes and do other odd jobs. With the weather looking promising, we set off to the local Multisave for meat and wood for supper. We were still admiring the impressive cloud formations when a sudden storm broke, water bucketing down, and we ran for cover and closed up tents but is was already too late! It all lasted no more than an hour and a half, and as suddenly as it started it stopped, and the stars came out.
19 April - Steynsburg – Burgersdorp - 79 km
We woke to a lovely morning and could hardly believe that there was such a storm the night before. So we headed off to Burgersdorp. Burgersdorp is a slightly bigger town than the previous ones. Once again people were curious and very friendly, from the lady in the bottle store, (she even gave Ernest discount on the beer) to the local cyclists who came to visit us at our campsite that night. The campground is at “Die Dam”, a most beautiful and tranquil place with large trees and green lawns. It must have been quite a place in its hay day, but we found most of the facilities dilapidated (no hot water) but Andries Pienaar, the caretaker, assured us that a geyser had been delivered and just needed to be installed. This time we were more “paraat” and pitched out tents under cover and closed everything up before the storm came. The city slickers were learning!
We were keen to get going as we wanted to get to the hot springs in Aliwal North, as what I can remember from a previous visit many years ago, it was a most fantastic place. The weather was perfect for cycling, with mild temperatures and a big blue sky. We reached Aliwal at around lunch time and headed straight for the hot springs. What a disappointment it turned out to be, although the place was still there it was completely dilapidated, with ceilings falling out, metalwork rusted, and paint peeling off the walls. At least one of the indoor pools was still operational, although just about everything was broken from the rails to the stairs. We soaked in it anyway! After that, we set off to the local Spur (not knowing what to expect), but we found the Spur up to its usual excellent standard. Cycling back we discussed how lucky we are that there is no storm tonight, but no sooner were we settled into our tents when the thunder and lighting started, and the rain came pouring down. Phew, we just made it in time!
22 April - Aliwal North – Zastron - 75 km
It was 12h30 by the time we got away, as we first had to soak in the warm water again and then into town to see if I could find gas for my stove, fat chance in Aliwal on a Sunday. So with a tailwind, we headed for Zastron and once again found a most idyllic campsite. Green lawn, big trees, and a dam with loads of bird life and piping hot water in the ablutions.
23 April - Zastron – Mohale’s Hoek - 58 km
We left Zastron quite late again, we can’t seem to get going early. We first stopped at the tourist info, which is also the printer and bike shop. Ernest was by then tired of fixing punctures, so he bought some sludge to stop the ongoing leaks for good. We then decided to head toward Lesotho along a gravel road, and as soon as we crossed the border, we found a local pub, where we could try a Maluti Beer, after which we carried on to Mohale’s Hoek with heavy legs. All along the road, people were waving and shouting "Dumela, Dumela." Blanket-clad men, leaning on walking sticks stared in silence as we flew past in a cloud of dust.
No camping in Mohale’s Hoek but we found the Monateng Hotel at R230.00 per room, and although the hotel was a bit neglected in true African style, we enjoyed a few more Maluti beers. Supper was a great treat consisting of Pap, marog and beans washed down with more Maluti beers, all for just R20.00.
24 April Morales's Hoek – Wepener - 74 km
We cycled via Mafeteng and Van Rooyens gate back into South Africa. I was sad to leave tiny Lesotho, as the people were so friendly and the country had such a peaceful vibe. The whole day we cycled up and down and up and down, what else does one expect in Lesotho. Children come running over the hills, waving and offering us cobs of corn.
We found no camping in Wepener, and we spent another night in a guesthouse, which we could not really afford. The guesthouse was, however, outstanding, with extensive gardens, large and well-appointed rooms, as well as a lively bar and good food. So don’t bypass Wepener, go in and stay the night!
25 April - Wepener - Dewetsdorp - 43 km
It was a short ride to Dewetsdorp where we decided to stay over as Bloemfontein was still more than 70 km away. Dewetsdorp is a tiny village but we found a room, and when the owner found out that we cycling he immediately gave a discount! Bless his heart we must have looked a bit worse for wear.
As we arrived early, we used the time to do laundry and watched some of the cricket, with the South Africans clearly heading for disaster we did not watch for very long, but instead decided to go look for food. Small towns always surprise me, and once again we found a really quaint restaurant, that even served pizzas.
26 April - Dewetsdorp – Bloemfontein - 80 km
This was the earliest we had been on the road, and by 8h00 we were ready to go, all in anticipation of a headwind. Not that it helped as we still had a headwind all to way to Bloemfontein. Due to our early start, we reached Bloemfontein at around lunchtime and got to the Backpackers early. We had plenty time, and Ernest went off to the bike shop and had his bicycle rim straitened, that has been giving problems for a long time.
Ernest and I did not get on well, and we were always bickering. I decided to leave Africa and cycle Europe and the UK while I still had money in the bank.
27 April - Bloemfontein
We spent the day in Bloemfontein as I was leaving for Cape Town the following day to get my flight to London from where I intend to cycle the UK and Europe.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Rita, who was in Bloemfontein for the Masters Championship. She took part in both the 100m and the 200m and won both! What a remarkable lady, well done Rita!
I was up early and off to the station to catch the train back to Cape Town. The Railway Station in Bloemfontein was quite an experience, devoid of staff and not very clean. The train was 2 hours late, but it eventually arrived and I waved goodbye to Ernest who would continue cycling north.
The train in contrast with the station was a pleasant surprise. The coaches were new and the staff very helpful and friendly. What a good experience, we arrived in Cape Town on time!! My next update will be from London if I manage to get everything organised before Saturday!